Category Archives: Force Modernization

Iskander’s Reach

Earlier this month, the Russian Ground Troops took  delivery of their ninth brigade set of Iskander-M missiles (NATO designation SS-26 / Stone).  The new brigade will deploy east of Yekaterinburg at Yelanskiy in Russia’s Central MD.

Iskander-M TELs Delivered at Kapustin Yar (photo KBM).JPG

Iskander-M TELs

Each brigade set has 51 vehicles — 12 TELs, 12 reload vehicles, 11 command vehicles, 14 personnel support vehicles, one data preparation vehicle, and one service and repair vehicle.  So a brigade can load out 48 Iskander-M missiles.  Additional reloads may come out of the brigade’s missile storage facility.

A brigade has three battalions, each with two batteries of two launchers.

The first Iskander-M missiles deployed with the 630th Independent Missile Battalion between 2005 and 2007.  They were operationally tested with this unit which falls under the 60th Combat Employment Training Center for Missile Troops and Artillery of the Ground Troops at Kapustin Yar.

After some piecemeal deployments, Moscow got serious about Iskander-M production, investing in production capability at Votkinsk and its suppliers, and signing a contract to equip ten brigades before the end of 2017.  The MOD’s 2013 “Action Plan” through 2020 indicated that Iskander-M would be the only new weapon system to replace its predecessor completely during that time frame.

iskander-m-deployments

Iskander-M Deployments

The MOD may plan to go above ten brigades of Iskander-M given that the Ground Troops’ structure is expanding at the army level.  The existing 152nd Missile Brigade at Chernyakhovsk in Kaliningrad (part of Baltic Fleet forces) and the 448th Missile Brigade at Kursk (20th CAA) also remain to be upgraded to Iskander-M.

iskander-m-brigades-in-western-russia

Iskander-M Brigades in Western Russia

Even without leaving garrison, Iskander-M missiles in Western Russia can reach southern Finland, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, northern Belarus, southeastern Ukraine, Crimea, northeastern Turkey, Georgia, Armenia, and Azerbaijan with their 500-km range. Iskander-M in Kaliningrad allows coverage of targets in southern Sweden, Poland, northwestern Ukraine, and most of Belarus.  Add a brigade at Kursk and Russian missiles cover most of Ukraine including Kyiv.

iskander-m-brigades-in-eastern-russia

Iskander-M Brigades in Eastern Russia

Iskander-M missiles in Russia’s Far East can reach targets in China’s new Northern Theater Command north of Beijing.

But the real reach of Iskander-M depends on the missile loaded on its launcher…is it the 9M723 ballistic missile with reported 500-km range or is it the 9M728 cruise missile also with reported (but more difficult to believe) 500-km range.  The latter has come to be known as Iskander-K. 

This missile is also known as the R-500 and it may be part of the Kalibr family.  If true, it may have 2,000-km or greater range — breaking the INF Treaty’s prohibition on ground-launched cruise missiles with ranges between 500- and 5,500-km.

Iskander-K is likely already present in the first four or five brigades armed with Iskander-M.

It’s a game-changer.  Fired from near Luga, this missile covers all of Western Europe, perhaps falling shy of Paris.  In the Far East, one from Birobidzhan covers all of northern China and easily reaches Beijing.

Defense Procurement in Decline?

Is the Russian MOD’s procurement declining?  It’s difficult to say, but a quick survey seems to show it hasn’t, at least not yet or by much.

buk-m3

Buk-M3

Although Russian procurement data is far from independent and probably far from complete, what Moscow claims was procured for the military is still useful. Below find a side-by-side comparison of what the MOD says it bought in the third quarter of 2015 and in the third quarter of this year.

The reporting comes from Krasnaya zvezda for 2015 and 2016, and from TASS and Bmpd.

3rd-quarter-comparison

Year-on-year in the third quarter, procurement of aircraft and helicopters appeared down.  Purchases of air-delivered ordnance were higher in 2015 because the MOD needed to replenish stocks of missiles, rockets, and bombs expended in Syria.  Deliveries of ICBMs and ships were lower in the quarter just completed.  But the navy received substantial numbers of new cruise missile systems.

The MOD reported that 62 percent of the state defense order (GOZ) was complete in the third quarter.  It also said the armed forces’ inventory of weapons and equipment is now 48 percent modern.

This week Sergey Chemezov, head of government-owned defense industrial conglomerate Rostekh and friend of Putin, echoed the president’s recent warning to firms to plan for a time without large military orders.  Chemezov said Rostekh believes GOZ procurement will peak in two years and be no more than 50 percent of its total output by 2025.

Tanks a Lot

gabtu-chief-general-lieutenant-shevchenko

GABTU Chief General-Lieutenant Shevchenko

Some data on Russia’s armor programs appearing in the media prior to Tank Troops’ Day (11 September) didn’t get too much notice.

RIA Novosti interviewed the chief of the MOD’s Main Automotive and Armor Directorate (GABTU), General-Lieutenant Aleksandr Shevchenko on 9 September.

General-Lieutenant Shevchenko noted that the MOD plans to “modernize” new Tigr armored vehicles, and not just by mounting a 30-mm gun.  They will, not surprisingly, go by the name Tigr-2.  But no other details.

Shevchenko confirmed Uralvagonzavod’s announcement that it has delivered more than 1,000 T-72B3 tanks.  He also indicated that the MOD will receive 300 improved T-72B3. The improved T-72B3, he says, will have a better engine and better defensive and targeting systems.

Some number of Russian T-90 tanks nearing the end of their service lives will be modernized under the “Proryv-3” program, according to the GABTU chief.  The resulting tank is supposed to be superior to the original T-90.

Regarding the Armata armored vehicle family, Shevchenko reported that the “experimental” lot of T-14 tanks will conclude initial field trials in 2016 and move into state testing.  This will be completed in 2017 and followed by formal state acceptance of the T-14.

t-14-tanks-enroute-to-red-square-photo-ria-novosti-yevgeniy-biyatov

T-14 tanks en route to Red Square (photo: RIA Novosti / Yevgeniy Biyatov)

Shevchenko added that the Armata BMP (T-15) and BREM, or armored recovery vehicle (T-16) also remain in preliminary testing and will finish state testing next year.

Similarly, the Kurganets family — BMP, BTR, and BREM — from Kurganmashzavod as well as the wheeled Bumerang BTR from Arzamasmashzavod are on the same schedule.

kurganets-bmp

Kurganets BMP

Asked about the impact of Russia’s difficult economic situation and “corrections” in the GOZ on these programs, the GABTU chief said:

“Testing of ‘Armata,’ ‘Kurganets’ and ‘Bumerang’ is fully financed, and we will give it priority because they are the base for the future.”

Of course, paying for testing is one thing.  Ordering a production run is another.  The Russian Army will eventually have to make some choices between these new armored vehicles.  It won’t be able to afford all of them.

Shevchenko added that these vehicles are being tested in arctic, mountain, and desert conditions.  Other army systems (artillery, air defense, etc.) will be mounted on the same chassis.  Robotic armored vehicles are in the works.  He said the MOD doesn’t have a requirement for a wheeled tank.

Dizzy with Success

On Topwar.ru on 15 September, Aleksandr Staver and Roman Skomorokhov asked whether President Vladimir Putin, like his predecessor Stalin, has decided to curb (at least temporarily) his key program.  Today it’s rearmament rather than collectivization.

The authors assess the program and its problems from a conservative viewpoint.

They assert the arms program is not being fulfilled and the MOD budget is being cut (whether admitted or not).  In particular, they contend, it is new weapons programs that are suffering, so they argue for cheaper modernization of existing armaments.

Debate over rearmament is a constant.  Staver and Skomorokhov don’t even mention that the start of the next arms program was delayed, or that the MOD and Finance Ministry are far apart on funding it.

For his part, Putin routinely says the current GPV will not be cut, and the armed forces will have 70 percent modern arms and equipment in 2020.

But 70 percent, according to the authors of this op-ed, is not enough.  More is needed.

Then they turn to corruption.  They allege that the ones who are “dizzy with the success” of the arms program are the ones who are stealing from it.  They say a return to 1937 would put an end to this, and to other problems with rearmament.

Recall that even Putin and United Russia once talked about bringing treason charges for non-fulfillment of the GOZ, but nothing came of it.

So much for preamble.

“Dizzy with Success, or ‘Alarm’ in the Russian Army”

“We are so used to the fact that our army is powerful that we almost don’t notice, or more precisely, don’t wish to notice that light ‘clouds’ threatening to turn into bad storms have appeared over Russia’s VS [Armed Forces].  We talk and write with satisfaction about our aircraft which, at a minimum, don’t lag behind Western ones. We ‘procrastinate’ with Armata and its offshoots, comparing it to the best models of Western armies.  We discuss the advantages of our new missiles and systems.”

“And now, today exactly, heard here and there are announcements by various government bureaucrats and army chiefs about delaying arms procurement to another time, so to speak.  About delayed launches of ships.  About adjusting the schedule for delivering something to the troops.”

“So what’s with this.  Why is this happening?  Recently all officials, including the president and the prime minister, together talked about fulfilling the defense order almost as a matter of honor for Russia. Don’t many remember Putin’s April statement about the unconditional fulfillment of the state defense order?  And can’t many say exactly how much it is fulfilled and whether it is fulfilled?”

“The entire thing is that the necessary money is not in the budget!  The crisis, which we are ‘successfully overcoming,’ still has us in its claws.  We’ve talked a lot about the fact that sanctions hurt Europe and the USA, and how they [sanctions] are going to benefit us.  We are developing, increasing output, winning markets…  On any analytical program on our TV it’s possible to hear a full assortment of such pronouncements.”

“The support of the president and the real successes of our servicemen in Syria inspire hope in us that all this will come true.  The government will find money both for us and for the army.  Industry will begin to work not only well, but both quickly and cheaply.  New ideas of [arms] designers will be realized in the shortest time.”

“Prime Minister Medvedev’s decision, signed on 5 September, to adjust the GOZ for 2016 was only the first call.  It is understood that today there’s no clear data on this question.  Naturally, it’s possible to suppose that defense sector enterprises won’t receive some part of the promised resources.  And this, in its turn, means that GOZ plans for next year will be ruined.  A snowball of corrections will accumulate gradually from the details.”

“And not hiding the fact, by the way, does him credit, Putin himself already talks about the fact that by 2018 our army will be rearmed at 70%, and the state order will be reduced.  And he talks about what is needed to take the place of the defense order, but not pots and pans.”

“From the one side, one who is forewarned is forearmed.  But from the other?  It’s hard to guess with what enterprises will be occupied, with a miracle which drags them out of the debt hole.  And where will workers who turn out to be redundant go at this moment?  But we have already passed through such a scenario.”

“However, certain specifics have already ‘hatched.’ The Ministry of Defense plans to make the famous “Armata” the main battle tank by 2020.  With this aim, the purchase of more than 2,000 of such vehicles for military units has been proposed. According to the tank producer’s data, the order was already for 2,300 tanks.  But not long ago on the Ministry of Defense website an altogether different figure appeared: there is a plan to buy up to 70 “Armatas” in 2017-2019.”

“Naturally, the reasons for changing the [state defense] order aren’t named.  I think over some time versions about some shortcomings, about the modernization of what we already have, [and] some others.  Actually, the reason is banal.  They are cutting the military budget and will cut it.  It’s completely logical, you can’t take money from the shelf if there’s nothing on it.  So folks say.”

“The navy’s situation looks even more confused.  Even the blind see the necessity for modernizing the Russian fleet.  Ships, just like people, age, lose their striking power, and turn into respected veterans.  But we need warriors.  And these ‘warriors’ need to be built.  A lot of them.  The Soviet legacy can no longer guarantee a worthy answer to an aggressor.”

“It seems as though construction began from 2007.  Missile boats, small ships and even submarines began to leave the docks for testing.  New submarines, frigates were laid down at the wharves.  The rebirth had begun.”

“Our excessive belief in the ‘love and friendship of fraternal peoples’ became the first ‘obstacle.’  When construction was stopped by the Ukrainian side [sic].  They stopped supplying Ukrainian engines to us.  Actually, the question of ‘their’ components in combat equipment and armaments arose already in the last century.  And they successfully solved it in the USSR.  But in Russia they put it off ‘for later.'”

“Then the ‘rockslide’ of announcements by military and government bureaucrats on cutbacks in the needs of the fleet began.  I remind the readers about the project 11711 BDK [i.e. an LST].  A large assault ship which was needed to replace Soviet BDKs.  In 2004, a requirement for 6 of such ships for the navy was announced.  Then they decided to review the project.”

“Today we see two ships.  Two instead of six.  It’s been decided to shut down the project.  ‘Ivan Gren’ and ‘Petr Morgunov’ — that’s all that the fleet will receive after testing.”

“It’s possible to talk endlessly about the submarine fleet.  About new missile submarines.  But even they, alas, for the most part remain only projects.  The construction of boats of such a class is a very expensive undertaking.  And this means still unmanageable.”

“Even the Rocket Troops of Strategic Designation [RVSN] will not receive everything promised.  Although, for all times the priority was always right on these troops.  No, ‘Yars’ and similar systems will be supplied.  But land-based ‘Sarmat’ systems most probably won’t be deployed to the original plan.”

“I recall it was planned to replace by 2020 the already aged ‘Voyevod’ missiles (known to most by the NATO ‘nickname’ ‘Satan’) which have served out their time.  Today it’s understood that these plans aren’t being fulfilled.  Today already.  In the best case, such a replacement will occur in 2021.  Or a little later.”

“So where’s the way out of the situation which has been created?  Is there one generally?  I believe there is.  And today the way out is to use those developments which exist and have already been tested in combat.”

“When the VDV [Airborne Troops] commander announced the establishment of tank and BMP companies in units subordinate to him, what kind of vehicles did he mention?  He talked about T-72B3 tanks and BMP-2s.  I hope no one will chide General Shamanov for stupidity and a lack of desire to have the most powerful and modern weaponry?  So why exactly these vehicles?”

“Simply because both the tank and the combat vehicle have huge modernization potential.  And in the coming decades this potential will be used.  And mass serial production has reduced the cost of this equipment in the extreme.  And long use in the troops has revealed practically all ‘minuses’ of these vehicles.”

“Modernization of the T-72 to the T-72B3 level costs a bit more than 50 million rubles.  In other words, for one ‘Armata’ we can have several T-72B3s right away.   Naturally, the T-90 would be more desirable, but it is cost prohibitive.”

“It’s exactly the same situation with the famous T-50 system.  The aircraft is ready. Moreover, it’s been put in series production.  And in the plans it’s supposed to be the main fighter.  This ‘hulk’ looks impressive in our plans.  In 2020 we should already have 60 fighters in the force.  And in the future their production should increase.”

“In reality we’ll get exactly the same as ‘Armata.’  We want to do a ‘split,’ but our britches get in the way…  It will be good if we have a regiment of such aircraft in 2020.”

“But we have the fully combat capable, even compared to the American F-22 and F-35, Su-30MK.  And, according to the assertions of its builders, the potential of these aircraft is far from used up.”

“And what’s the result?  As a result, we see the famous ‘half-full glass.’  Part of the readers are now sighing sadly.  The army is ‘penned up.’  Another part thinks that the Russian Army, in the shape which we have it, can really confront the enemy.  The third part giggles happily.  They have failed to modernize.  Oafs.  We told them…”

“It’s not for nothing that I called this article by a Stalinist name.  This isn’t a greatness mania or a wish to show off knowledge of the works of the ‘leader of peoples.’  We truly have become a little ‘dizzy.’  Not everything has succeeded right away.”

“I generally believe that the right way to move is walking or running.  But not ‘leapfrog’ jumps.  Movement should be measured and in one direction.  Therefore, the modernization of the army should continue.  Continue, no matter what.  But not by busting a gut.”

“I would be wary of talking about our weapons and combat equipment like junk.  Particularly after what this equipment showed in Syrian battles.  Just the same to talk also about the superiority of Western armies in some components.  But if we view the army like the world, a ‘gap’ will always be found.  But this gap is always ‘plugged’ by something else.”

“The dizziness quickly passes if you leave the centrifuge or wheel.  If, of course, you have a properly functioning outer office staff.  I think healthy people serve in our Ministry of Defense.”

“But just one moment.  No one needs to have the fact that our bureaucrats are not simply greedily stealing everything possible explained to them.  It’s a rare day when the Internet and television don’t report about the latest stuff that’s ‘flown off.'”

“It’s necessary to stop those who ‘have become dizzy with success.’  With the methods of the person I quoted.  Severe and long-term.  Take that Zakharchenko.  9 billion rubles — that’s a great deal.  The T-90, for example, today costs about 120 million rubles.  That is 75 tanks laid in the brute’s hidey-holes.  Two battalions.  Not bad…”

“And this is one of the deputies…”

[Colonel Dmitriy Zakharchenko is, or was, deputy chief of Directorate T in the MVD’s Main Directorate of Economic Security and Countering Corruption until his arrest in early September.  The foreign currency equivalent of 8 billion rubles was found in his apartment.  See RIA Novosti for an early report on his case.]

“And if they search his relatives, it’s certain it would be possible to scrape together a brigade easily and without effort.”

“‘Effective managers’ of our times have shown that they can only steal effectively.  From the budget just the same as from the GOZ.”

“It’s necessary to change the situation really at the root.  And tear this root with a crunch and snap on the image and likeness of ’37.  With the confiscation of everything that’s possible.”

“Only then will the state defense order be fulfilled on time and without problems.  And the president won’t have to shuffle, talking about how 70 percent is sufficient so we should relax.”

“So isn’t it?”

Tough Times at UVZ

Maybe Russia’s economy is muddling through its downturn.  But for some major enterprises, the situation seems somewhat worse.  Tank and railcar maker Uralvagonzavod (UVZ) is a case in point.

Uralvagonzavod

Uralvagonzavod

In early August, RBK reported that Gazprombank is prepared to refinance UVZ’s 200-billion-ruble ($3 billion) debt.  The Russian government may kick in nearly 15 billion rubles ($230 million) of loan guarantees.

The 100-percent state-owned UVZ would use state guarantees to refinance part (most, all?) of 21 billion rubles ($325 million) in bank credits due this year.  Alfa-Bank, Sberbank, Gazprombank, and Svyaz-Bank are its primary creditors.

In June, Alfa-Bank went to court to have the tank producer declared bankrupt over 9 billion ($140 million) of a 16-billion-ruble debt.  The case was to be heard on 8 August, but UVZ needed to stop the bankruptcy case – by reaching agreement with Alfa-Bank – to receive the state loan guarantees.  With the guarantees, Gazprombank decided to refinance UVZ’s debts on 9 June.

Now Alfa-Bank denies it ever filed a bankruptcy suit against UVZ.  But a Minpromtorg official told RBK that the bank and tank maker reached “certain agreements,” and the former will soon lift its case against the latter.

According to RBK, UVZ reported record losses in 2015, mainly due to reduced sales of railcars and higher interest rates.  The corporation indicated that 58 percent of earnings came from military sales and 15 percent from civilian sales, with the balance from freight handling operations.

UVZ Deputy General Director Aleksey Zharich said the state cut the advance payment for its GOZ deliveries, forcing the company to turn to the banks.  It also needed to import equipment which doubled in price thanks to the weak ruble.

Overall, the Minpromtorg official said, “Indicators like these [for UVZ] haven’t been seen since the 1990s, the economic crisis has brought a fall in the volume of rail transport.”  But UVZ is hopeful for improved results in 2016.

The New York Times covered UVZ’s situation in February when it reported that the plant’s railcar workers had their wages cut by one-third while its military side was still “humming” on full pay.  One employee said then that workers on the civilian side had been showing up, getting paid, but actually doing little work for a year.  In June, RBK reported that UVZ furloughed 3,000 workers from railcar production.

What does UVZ’s situation mean for Russian defense?

In the short run, it means the T-14 Armata tank is likely to come out of UVZ slowly.  UVZ sent 20 tanks to the army for “troop testing” in the spring.  General Director Oleg Siyenko said in June that UVZ will deliver 100 tanks to the MOD in 2017 and 2018.  That’s a far cry from the 2,300 Armata tanks expected under GPV 2011-2020.

T-14 Armata

T-14 Armata

Meanwhile, Siyenko has been asking the Russian government for much larger loan guarantees – 60 billion rubles ($940 million) – to repay bank credits coming due in 2017 and 2018, according to RBK.  Some portion of this may be needed to retool the lines for serial Armata production.

It’s entirely possible UVZ might require a full-scale Kremlin-ordered bailout to be in position to produce Armata tanks by the hundreds.

S-500 in 2016?

Predictions of the imminent appearance of the new anti-air, anti-missile S-500 system come with regularity.  Last week’s press reports aren’t novel in this respect.

Deputy Aerospace Forces (VKS) CINC and Chief of Air and Missile Defense General-Lieutenant Viktor Gumennyy [Goo-MYO-knee] says Almaz-Antey is completing development work on the S-500, and the VKS will receive it “soon.” Hard to argue. We know it’s in development, and he doesn’t say what “soon” means.

TASS and RIA Novosti covered Gumennyy’s comments on Rossiya 24 television.

The prevailing forecast is that the S-500 will complete development, and appear with operational units on an “experimental” basis in 2017.

As recently as early 2015, Deputy Defense Minister and procurement chief Yuriy Borisov predicted the S-500 wouldn’t complete development until 2017.

However, TASS reminds that VKS CINC General-Colonel Viktor Bondarev has said deliveries will start in 2016.  He’s an inveterate optimist; in 2012, he said 2013.

In any event, it’s a chance to review what’s claimed to date about the S-500.

The typical advertisement for the S-500 calls it a new generation, long-range surface-to-air missile with increased capability for high altitude (200 km) intercepts against ballistic missiles and RVs.  It can reportedly engage ten ballistic missiles simultaneously at a range of 600 km.  The S-500 is supposed to be superior to both the S-400 Triumf and U.S. Patriot Advanced Capability-3 (PAC-3).

The system is supposed have 40N6M (possibly a longer-range mod of the S-400’s 400-km missile?) missiles as well as hypersonic 77N6-N and 77N6-N1 missile interceptors.  TASS reported that these anti-missile missiles were successfully tested in mid-2014.

According to Interfaks, GPV 2011-2020 calls for procurement of ten battalions (or five “regimental sets”) of the S-500.  Almaz-Antey’s original contract called for initial deliveries in 2015.

Noted by the regime or not, this is “GOZ breaking.” Some producers get in trouble for it; important ones sometimes don’t.

General-Lieutenant Gumennyy also reported that testing of the S-350 Vityaz SAM continues, and initial launches confirmed the system’s performance.  The S-350 will replace older Russian S-300PS SAMs.

Gumennyy said the share of “modern” SAMs and radars in Russia’s inventory is 45 percent.  Last December, the MOD indicated that 52 percent of all VKS weapons and equipment was “modern.”

P.S. President Vladimir Putin’s assistant for military-technical cooperation confirmed for Izvestiya today that Russia is negotiating sales of the S-400 system to China and India.

Third Iskander-M Brigade in Far East

The Eastern Military District’s third brigade of Iskander-M SRBMs is set to deploy to its base after initial training on the range in Astrakhan Oblast.  Interfaks-AVN and RIA Novosti covered the story yesterday.

The recipient is the Ussuriysk-based 5th Combined Arms Army’s 20th Missile Brigade at Spassk-Dalniy, Primorskiy Kray.

The first Iskander-M brigade in the Far East was the 35th Army’s 107th Missile Brigade in Birobidzhan in 2013.  The 36th Army’s 103rd Missile Brigade in Ulan-Ude got the Iskander-M last December.

The Russian Defense Ministry has said it intends to field two brigades of Iskander-M missiles each year until it replaces older Tochka / Tochka-U SRBMs.